Even the smallest business must play by certain rules to avoid legal issues. From hanging labor law posters to filling taxes on the scheduled IRS and state deadlines, these rules are now so common that most companies simply take them for granted as the activities everyday work life.
That’s a great mindset to have, but for many companies, it blinds them to the natural evolution of business operations. As the world changes, business changes. And with these changes come new rules and compliance requirements that affect businesses of all sizes.
These days, the most immediate is the increasingly important and fast-growing set of security compliance responsibilities. These responsibilities are evolving in response to the unfortunate and inevitable cybersecurity challenges that stem from our online world. And they are now more relevant to small businesses than every before.
Putting Together the Cybersecurity Compliance Puzzle
It’s not that long ago when cybersecurity was almost a cult topic, and cybersecurity-related regulations were as rare as hen’s teeth. But over the last few decades, computers have taken over the world and the everywhere, all the time interconnectivity they bring have downsides as well as upsides.
Now, even mom-and-pop stores have at least one computer that stores and processes sensitive business information (think about the personal laptop that they use to run QuickBooks). And most companies in the small businesses sector have surprisingly complex information technology infrastructures made up of a mix of on-premises servers and cloud software, not to mention a mix of desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.
It’s no wonder then that cybersecurity compliance obligations are increasing across the globe, and they include:
- International compliance standards: Some of the most widely recognized international compliance standards are developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), such as ISO 27001 and ISO 27032.
- Government-imposed compliance standards: Governments around the world are encouraging private and public organizations to improve their cybersecurity by passing compliance standards like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). And they’re backing them up with hefty fines and penalties.
- Industry-specific compliance standards: Different industries deal with different cybersecurity compliance challenges, and there are now all kinds of industry-specific compliance standards which are all designed to ensure that all businesses—regardless of their industry—have strong defenses. Examples include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).
As you can see, what has emerged over the years in response to various cyber threats is a complex cybersecurity compliance puzzle that can be fairly difficult to put together, especially for smaller businesses that can’t afford to throw a large amount of money at the problem.
Understanding the Benefits of Cybersecurity Compliance
As difficult as it can be to navigate the puzzle of compliance standards and their individual requirements, the benefits that can be unlocked by those who succeed are worth the effort:
- Enhanced cybersecurity: The most obvious and important benefit of cybersecurity compliance is that companies naturally achieve enhanced This directly translates into less downtime and increased productivity.
- Decreased risk of lawsuits and fines: Many cybersecurity compliance laws and regulations impose steep non-compliance fines. For example, HIPAA fines can reach up to $50,000 per violation, while any business that offers goods or services to customers or businesses in the EU can be fined up to 4% of its global turnover or 20 million euros (whichever is higher) for a GDPR violation.
- Improved reputation: Whenever a business has a data breach due to its lack of compliance, its reputation instantly suffers. On the other hand, businesses that go beyond the bare minimum when it comes to cybersecurity are seen as trustworthy and both partnering businesses and customers are more likely to do business with them.
In addition, we should also mention that cybersecurity compliance improves a company’s data management capabilities, which increases their abilities around advanced reporting and streamlining operations.
Getting Started with Cybersecurity Compliance
Any business that wants to improve or achieve cybersecurity compliance first must understand the destination. This means studying existing compliance laws and regulations, so they know which of them are applicable.
Once the destination is known, it’s time to focus on the starting point by identifying what type of data the business works with, like Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI). And they need to identify which controls have already been implemented and which have not.
Then the plan can take shape. Getting from the starting point to the destination is then mostly a matter of perseverance—at least when working together with an experienced managed service provider (MSP). For those doing it solo, things like consistency, tracking (for future auditing purposes), scalability, and of course, the chronology of steps are vital to keep in mind.
Chances are if you’re reading this article to this point, then you’re well into educating yourself on how cybersecurity compliance will impact your company. If you have any questions about your industry or unique considerations, just contact us. Every day, we help small businesses with all levels of compliance from HIPPA to CMMC, and we’re happy to talk you through any of them.